The first Whitbread Round the World Race was held in 1973. 17 yachts and 167 crew took part in the gruelling challenge which encompassed 50,000 kilometres of often tumultuous ocean. Sailing itself was a very male-dominated world at the time but it was almost unheard of for women to crew, let alone captain, at the extreme end of the sport. In 1989 this all changed when 24-year old Tracy Edwards became the skipper of the first all-women team to compete.
Alex Holmes’ new documentary Maiden follows their journey, both literally and metaphorically. Using interviews with the crew and archive newsreel, he tells the remarkable tale of a group of women who defied expectations. In an era which has aged badly in terms of institutional sexism, their achievements are all the more impressive. Some of the clips demonstrate just how much they were up against before they even got out onto the water.
Maiden is a fairly routine documentary which is edited superbly to make it into a captivating story. What they accomplished is truly inspiration and their legacy has inspired so many other women to break their own ceilings. The strength of Holmes’ documentary is linked to the wealth of footage which was filmed at the time. Combined with candid present-day interviews, it makes for a rip-roaring tale of adventure and endurance on the high seas, and sexism on dry land.
Maiden is out in cinemas from 8 March.